Andrew Cozzens
Smoketown Life|Line Project
2016
To gather direct information from Smoketown residents as part of the discovery stage, I have constructed an outdoor temporary sculpture on a high-traffic corner in the Smoketown neighborhood. The work was constructed behind the STEAM Exchange building on the corner of Clay and Finser. It reflects conversations that occurred over one month.
The work is a growing set of tubular metal rods installed vertically as the members of Smoketown participate and share their stories with me. My hope was that while working on the site, curiosity would encourage pedestrians to stop by and take interest in the project. It was successful. These initial interactions spread through Smoketown as residents encouraged their friends and family to come forward and tell their stories to me. Some also spoke on behalf of their family members who were unable to come themselves or that were currently incarcerated.
I had a list of questions in mind that would inform the construction of each rod. The vertical rods began straight as they stemmed from the ground. A bend or kink was put into the rod depending on when a traumatic experience occurred in that individual’s life. I started by asking the person’s age, and measured the rod to that size. From there, I asked questions concerning the person’s history of addiction, family/ parental issues, incarceration, mental illness, violence and other traumatic experiences which may have prevented them from achieving their dreams or caused the individual to “stray from the straight and narrow path.” Each bend has a color associated with it and will ultimately have a colored plaque or signage nearby to indicate what sort of trauma it represents. This signage will also contain facts about each issue and statistics about the role each plays. As each steel rod is bent, the initial structure is compensated over and over again, leaving the rod far from straight- just as these traumatic experiences prevent a full recovery from ever happening. The height of the rod, representing the age of the individual, also gets shorter with every bend. This represents the toll that it has on the overall health or lifespan of that individual.
Although this visually abstract work doesn’t contain any specific information about the individuals, one is able to “read” the work to better understand the trauma that is affecting the lives and health of the citizens of Smoketown during specific times in their lives. This leaves the viewer to wonder: How tall might their line have been without all of these incidents? How can we prevent these things from happening to the individuals whose lines are less that one foot tall? What would my line look like? What will my children’s line look like? This sculpture is meant to offer a visual interpretation of the issues that affect the health of Smoketown- both individually and holistically.
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